Richard Galex

A Piscataway woman left brain dead after ovarian-cyst surgery recovered $2.725 million in her medical malpractice suit, Graham v. Twedell.

On Dec. 4, 2007, Calreather Graham, then 55, had the operation at Somerset Medical Center. Two days later, she required a second surgery to repair a tear in her colon. That resulted in a fistula between her colon and bladder, necessitating a third operation on Jan. 2, 2008, after which she went into cardiac arrest and suffered brain damage from lack of oxygen. Since then, she has been in a vegetative state.

Her lawyer, Richard Galex of Lomurro Davison Eastman & Munoz in Freehold, says the torn bowel was a known complication but the surgeons should have recognized the problem sooner and she should have had a temporary colostomy until it healed.

Two doctors, Somerset Medical and a nurse are paying the settlement. Galex declines to name the settling doctors, citing a confidentiality provision, but court records show they were obstetrician-gynecologist George Twedell and surgeon Thangamani Seenivasan.

One doctor settled in April and the others on May 21 as the case was about to go to trial before Middlesex County Superior Court Judge Joseph Rea.

The remaining defendant, critical-care physician Nehal Mehta, allegedly allowed Graham to be given Lopressor after surgery. She had been taking it for high blood pressure and fast heartbeat. That allegedly caused cardiac arrest.

At trial, Rea denied Mehta's motion to reduce any recovery against him by the $2.75 million settlement. The opinion was mooted by the no-cause verdict against Mehta on June 4.

Mehta's lawyer, David Donohue of Farkas & Donohue in Florham Park, confirms the settlement, as does Twedell's attorney, David Weeks of Ruprecht Hart & Weeks in Westfield.

Seenivasan's lawyer, Frank Leanza of Marshall, Dennehey, Warner Coleman & Goggin in Roseland, could not be reached.

Raymond Fleming of Sachs Maitlin Fleming & Greene in West Orange, representing Somerset Medical and the nurse who administered the Lopressor, did not return a call. Matthew Schiappa of Galex's firm was his co-counsel.

— By Mary Pat Gallagher

$950,000 for Car-Accident Injuries

Decker v. Hart:A woman who allegedly suffered permanent injuries in an auto accident accepted $950,000 on Sept. 4 in her Middlesex County suit.

Denise Decker claims that in August 2011, she was on Fresh Ponds Road in South Brunswick when a car ran a red light at the intersection of Route 130.

Decker had no memory of the impact, though an eyewitness stated that the light was red, says Decker's lawyer, Richard Galex of Lomurro Davison Eastman & Munoz in Freehold.

Decker fractured her left femur, shoulder blade and collar bone; suffered a left-shoulder rotator cuff tear; and had a closed-head injury, Galex says, adding that she has been unable to return to work as an eyeglass store saleswoman.

The other driver, Rebecca Hart, was insured by Selective Insurance. Defense attorney Patrick Coyne, of Zirulnik Sherlock & DeMille in Hamilton, disputed the extent of the injuries, Galex says. Coyne did not return a call.

Of the $950,000 settlement, $300,000 was used for a structured settlement that will pay Decker monthly installments for life, Galex says.

— By David Gialanella


John Mennie

$800,000 for Slip and Fall

Vella v. Pollo Tropical: A Metuchen man accepted $800,000 on Sept. 3 in his Middlesex County suit over back injuries he blamed on a fall on ice outside a Woodbridge restaurant.

On Jan. 7, 2011, Dennie Vella was walking in the lot of the Pollo Tropical restaurant when he fell. About one to two inches of snow had fallen the previous day, but the restaurant had not put down salt, sand or other material to keep the lot free from ice, the suit said.

He underwent an unsuccessful surgery to repair a herniated disc and later had fusion surgery on two discs in his lower back, and he has not been able to return to work as a laborer, says his lawyer, John Mennie, of Schibell, Mennie & Kentos in Ocean Township.

The restaurant's carrier, Liberty Mutual Ins. Co., retained Christopher Kolb, of Morristown's Viscomi & Lyons. He did not return a call.

— By Michael Booth


Damon Vespi

$465,000 for Auto-Accident Injuries

Skeete v. Liberty Mutual Insurance Co.: A woman who alleged she suffered neck injuries in a car accident received $465,000 from her underinsured motorist claim against her carrier.

Lydia Skeete was struck on the Garden State Parkway in East Orange on June 25, 2008, by a taxicab changing lanes. She sued the cab driver, Justin Raymond, and the cab owner, Paok Taxi, in Essex County. They did not contest liability and tendered the $35,000 policy in 2012.

Skeete, claiming she suffered cervical spine injuries and required fusion, a laminectomy and epidurals, pursued an underinsured motorist claim against her carrier, Liberty Mutual.

The carrier attributed her injuries to a previous accident and initially offered $250,000, says her lawyer, Totowa solo Damon Vespi. The $465,000 was received on July 17.

G. Samuel Hoffman of Styliades Jackson in Marlton, who represented Liberty Mutual, did not return a call. Raymond and Paok were represented by Anthony Coppola of Stern, Lavinthal & Frankenberg in Roseland. He is no longer there and the firm did not have forwarding information.

— By Charles Toutant